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Monday, 29 October, 2001, 00:02 GMT
Eritrean dissident's meeting disrupted
President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea
Mr Hagos used to be President Isaias's comrade-in-arms
Eritrean residents in the UK have disrupted a meeting in London convened by the former Eritrean Defence Minister, Mesfin Hagos, now a leading dissident.

We have lost our dignity and we have no shame

Elderly man at the meeting
About a dozen members, thought to belong to the ruling Eritrean PFDJ party (People's Front for Democracy and Justice), started to shout, scream and throw chairs when Mr Hagos stood up to speak.

Security staff at Islington Green School, where the gathering was being held, could not control the crowd and the meeting was called off.

Eritrean soldiers
Mr Hagos is a former military commander
An eyewitness at the meeting says that when Mesfin Hagos entered the hall, some people present made some noise, while others who wanted to listen applauded louder to drown it.

As Mr Hagos sat down after his speech, some people rose up and started pulling and pushing each other, the eyewitness says.

They went near the stage and started throwing plastic chairs. Some of the private security guards came to the stage to try to stop the commotion.

At this point, some members of the audience started to leave and the police was called in, but the meeting still had to be cancelled.

One elderly man outside the hall said: "We have lost our dignity and we have no shame."


Mesfin Hagos was one of the founding members and leading commanders of the Eritrean liberation forces which now run the country.

He was defence minister before being made governor of Eritrea's southern region.

Last month, the Eritrean Government arrested 11 out of a group of 15 leading dissidents, including former ministers and generals who had criticised the rule of President Isaias Afewerki.

Three of the group, including Mr Hagos, were out of the country at the time of the arrests.

The government media has accused them of treason and endangering the security of the nation. A charge of treason can carry the death penalty.

But Mr Hagos announced earlier this month that he intended to go back to Eritrea, despite expectations that he would be arrested on arrival.

See also:

03 Oct 01 | Africa
Eritrean dissident set for return
02 Oct 01 | Africa
Eritrea plays down diplomatic row
21 Sep 01 | Africa
Concern over Eritrea detainees
19 Sep 01 | Africa
More reformists held in Eritrea
18 Sep 01 | Africa
Eritrea silences critics
31 May 01 | Africa
Dissent surfaces in Eritrea
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